The Thinking 

A Miscellany on Goats, News Anxiety Disorder, and How Colleges Destroy Happiness

March 31, 2010


HERE, IN a miscellaneous entry, are questions from readers from the last few days.

Lisa writes:

As my daughter and I were in the goat barn for many hours this past few days after nearly all our milking does “decided” to have their kids all at once, I looked around in amused amazement at all these gals’ very female behavior. These new mothers need quiet, peace, protection, good food, kind words, a little affection, a little diversion, and attentive observation to be good mothers and milk producers.

I wonder if men, carried away from the agrarian and family settings of time immemorial and into an impersonal, mechanical, industrialized world, have forgotten the art of “husbanding” living things and the little sympathies that help their animal mothers cope, in addition to all that life throws their way, and that this knowledge is also beneficial to the mommas of their own humankind. Victorian family life books are full of this sort of tender knowledge about protecting their women, and are mocked for being so “old fashioned” and “anti-woman.”

Modern men think women entrap them by getting pregnant, and I used to think it more common too, but after so many years working with breeding animals and my own “hyperfertility,” I and all horse people know that being around a stallion can tease a mare into heat, I and goat people know that a cloth rubbed on a buck goat off the farm then given to a doe to smell can bring on ovulation, and that human intimacy can cause women to ovulate out of time, or even a second time in one cycle.

If the vacuum created in the generally rural family homestead setting by industrialism’s removing the man from “on-location” for the greater part of each day resulted in women’s trying to compensate for unintentional, unconscious neglect, not realizing they could not, is it any wonder we are where we are today?

Laura writes:

Springtime in the barn must be busy and exciting. If you are trying to make those of us who live in the goat-less anonymity of the modern suburb or city jealous, you have succeeded.  : – )

You ask: “Is it abigstockphoto_Apple_Tree_Black_And_White_Eng_6429051[1]ny wonder we are where we are today?”

Yes, it is a wonder. Yes, it is amazing. So wondrous and amazing and bewildering, we are like people who have been deposited by a tornado four miles from home in a dusty parking lot without our shoes. No, this cultural tornado could not have happened purely from material causes.

 The loss of an agrarian life alone could not have forced us to turn so counterintuitively from human nature. It could not have necessitated the near destruction of masculine and femininity, the breakdown of the family, the decline of love and intimacy, and the loss of happiness we see in our world today. Husbands and wives were physically closer and economically dependent on each other in agrarian societies, but they did not constantly work side by side. They were separated by their different functions. And, technology has resulted in many people working at home today.

Of course there are extreme differences between an agrarian life and the world most of us live in today. But industrialism, globalism, the high-tech society: these have been the occasion for the massive cultural shifts listed above, not the cause of them.  To give an analogy, let’s say a couple has a very sick child who spends weeks  and months in the hospital. Then, after this long illness, the child dies. His parents are grief-stricken, overcome by his death, and exhausted. They then get a divorce. Did the child’s death cause their divorce? After all, they probably wouldn’t have gotten a divorce if their child had lived and they had had an easier life. But no, the death was the occasion of their divorce not the cause of it. The marital vow is a spiritual thing, though it has material consequences. Material conditions alone cannot cause the inner change involved in breaking a vow. Similarly, a person who becomes an alcoholic after a period of long difficulties is not an alcoholic because of these difficulties. Rather they were the occasion of overwhelming spiritual change caused by acts of the will.

So while this massive change in our culture would not have occurred without the economic changes and living conditions of modernity – changes that themselves were not the result of material circumstances alone – these were pressures that elicited what was occurring in the realm of the mind and heart, in our ideas and ideals. Industrialism and technology did not necessitate the abandonment of the tradition of pre-marital chastity. The birth contol pill did not force people to have sex outside marriage. It did make extramarital sex seem less consequential, but it did not in the slightest change the fact that body and soul are united. It did not change the feeling inside a woman that sex is more than copulation or that pregnancy, even an “unwanted pregnancy,” is a momentous spiritual event. The departure of  men for the factory and office did not necessitate that women give up the happiness of home and children for commercial work.

So while it is not true our culture was determined by material circumstances, spiritual changes have so altered our world that people are less free to obtain the conditions of the past. Women are less free to live in the intimacy of home and men are less free to determine their family lives than in an agrarian society.

Jennine writes:

During a bout of insomnia I happened to catch a rebroadcast of Glenn Beck on Fox News. The show was entitled “The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die.” To say that it is disturbing is to put it mildly and yet the message is extremely important.

Then, when I woke up this morning, this story of babies dumped in a Chinese river was in my news feed. I quickly clicked out of the story because I just couldn’t bear to let it fully sink in. 

How do you deal with the constant, overwhelmingly sad news of any given day? Do you ever purposely excuse yourself from mainstream media for self preservation’s sake?

 Laura writes:

The world is a place of unending sorrow. The greatest mystics, saints who could mysteriously cure the illnesses of others by taking on their fevers and pains, could only cope with a minuscule fraction of it. We can pray for those babies in China, and adjust our opinions of China, but to worry about them and succumb to pessimism is immoral and reflects a lack of confidence in ultimate justice.

The media wants you to feel and to worry. They want you to pay attention to them. So not only may you occasionally excuse yourself from the onslaught of news, you have an obligation to regularly do so.

 As Aristotle said, every sphere of action or feeling has its golden mean. “It is the function of the prudent man to deliberate well.” If you take the virtue of love for others, there are unmediated extremes of good and bad. To love those we do not know and cannot in any way help turns compassion into a vice. Similarly to not love or care about anyone is a perversion of feeling, the golden mean of love. Your concern for the world is only good if it is held in check. Turn off the news. Grow your own garden. 

Jake Jacobsen writes:

I had a thought, but it’s still somewhat nebulous. The gist is simply this. We know that what the Left wants is pure autonomy, and that the desires of the Left are evil because Leftism is a false religion. Now, in specific what I was thinking was, in the modern world it is held up as a inherent good for women to go off to college to “learn about the world” “Gain some experience” “yada yada yada.”

But in fact what really happens is most of these girls become morally compromised because they are not ready to face the world on their own. It seems to me that a girl draws strength from her family so how diabolically ingenious would it be to develop this whole system of sending young women off to college simply to remove girls from the moral and physical protection of their families and expose them to the harshness of the world before they are ready for it. How many girls are raped and murdered every year at colleges? Would they be more or less likely to experience these deaths if they were still at home?

We know the Left sees school as the primary locus for creating the New Progressive Man and Woman so this feels right to me. Your thoughts?

Laura writes:

Higher education has become an engine for turning women into pseudo-men. It also lands many of them into debt, hurting their chances of starting a family before they are middle-aged. There are some excellent professors and college courses. But there are possibilities, especially in the age of the Internet, for alternatives, cheaper alternatives, that do not indoctrinate women into careerism and promiscuity. It would be nice to revolutionize our colleges and universities to make them reflect sex differences, but that is a monumental and costly task. One major reason women attend college is to meet men of similar background and to establish their own credentials for marriage. Higher education has replaced matchmaking. Institutions have replaced family and community. The cost of finding a mate and obtaining a smattering of knowledge is too high. Economic change may wake people up to the cheaper alternatives.

Learning is important for women. It is very important, and there will always be some women who pursue higher learning more seriously.  I support the as-of-yet non-existent Ellie Forthnaught in her creation of the New Wave Academy for Women.

        — Comments —

Rita writes:

Regardng news anxiety, that’s a very good point about ultimate Justice. I can spend hours reading about and debating with people about things I can’t control (politics) or I can focus on my Faithful Father who will avenge the unrepentant in the end. Lydia Sherman also speaks about this in her excellent article called How To Stop Fretting Over Politics and Start Living Abundantly. It’s an excellent antidote for worry.

Regarding how colleges destroy happiness, most colleges are a cover for leftist indoctrination. I took a philosophy class once in which I thought I would learn about Socrates and Plato. Instead the entire semester was spent learning about critical thinking skills and how to apply them to religion, not what I signed up for. I kept waiting for the philosophy part. I don’t know what I’m going to do about my daughter…she wants to be a nurse. When’s the New Wave School going to start up???

Rose writes:

“Industrialism and technology did not necessitate the abandonment of the tradition of pre-marital chastity. The birth control pill did not force people to have sex outside marriage.”

Right after the printing press was invented, moralists decried the inevitable spread of pornographic literature and the attendant decline of traditional mores. They were right of course. What do you suppose they would make of the Internet? I would hesitate to guess they would think that sexual scruples could not survive in our environment. 

I would also add that though modern Christianity has completely and utterly disregarded the notion that luxury, gluttony, and idleness are sins, in the old view the impulse towards material indulgence was very much connected with that towards fornication (“How the devil Luxury, with his fat rump and potato finger, tickles these together! Fry, lechery, fry!”). I suspect that the old-school Christians wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that our collective sickening overabundance of wealth and material goods are accompanied by excessive copulation.

Laura writes:

Just as an aside, the article Rose mentions carries the headline “All Men Watch Porn, Scientists Find,” but this is misleading. All men questioned in the study had “looked at” porn.

Pornography hasn’t brought about widespread divorce, especially the high level of divorce initiated by women; easy abortion, the soaring unmarried birthrate and the low fertility of professional women. Even if it was true that every single man in the world watched pornography every single day, women (who rarely watch porn) and men would have enormous power to curb these destructive epidemics.

I don’t think a world of high tech porn is necessarily a world in which the weak and the young are so readily exploited.

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